The Great Song in The McGunnegal Chronicles
Job 38:4,7 – “Where were you when … the morning stars sang together… ?”
Rom 8:22 – “For we know that the whole creation groans…”
This past September I was hiking in the Rocky Mountains. We were on a week-long backpacking trip in the Wind River Range, and some days into the backcountry, we climbed to around 12,000 feet and spent the night next to the remnant of a glacier. The sky that night was brilliantly clear, and the Milky Way stretched over our heads from horizon to horizon. Shooting stars fell from the sky as we gazed into the heavens. All was still, and the canopy of stars was so deep that I felt as though I might lose myself in its magical depths. But in that great well of heaven a vast symphony was being played. In the silence, all creation was singing. Every star chanted its part, the spiral arm sang its collective praise, the dark mountains framing the horizon added their voices, and every stone and scrub and little creature around us murmured its part. There on that mountain I joined in too. All was at peace.
King David must have had such experiences tending his father’s sheep as a young man. In Psalm 19:1-3 he said, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.”
Each of us have had those kinds of experiences. They are unforgettable moments.
In The McGunnegal Chronicles, both Colleen and Frederick from time to time taste such wonders, but each in different ways. Colleen has a gift of sight and hearing that goes beyond the physical – she can see beyond the surface, and hear what can’t be heard by physical ears.
In chapter 5 of Taming the Goblin (book 2 of The McGunnegal Chronicles), they are with the Lady Danu (the Lady of the Lake). The Lady is speaking with Colleen about the creation, and the song that it sings, and she asks Colleen a question:
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“I would like you to do something for me, Colleen. Look around. What do you see?” she asked.
“I see the sun shining on the lake. It’s like a thousand pieces of light dancing in the wind,” Colleen replied.
“Yes,” she said. “The wind on the water is like a symphony. Every dancing ripple in the sunlight sings to me. It so reminds me of the First Day. Do you think you can sing with it?”
“Sing with it?” Colleen asked. “How would I do that?”
“Look and listen to the music all around you, child. A symphony surrounds us of all there is to see. The orchestra of nature plays unendingly. The whisper of the wind, the roar of the sea, the silence of a meadow, the songbird’s harmony – yet so often, people fail to see its beauty and the truth it so clearly declares. It reflects the Maker himself, in a way. But also, in this land, there are many ancient spirits – in the trees, in the lake, in the rocks, in the mountains and meadows. As the tale that I sang to you tells, they came long, long ago when this world was young, and they are still here, although so many now slumber beneath the Spell. But you, Colleen, may be able to awaken them,” she replied.
“Do you mean that I could make the water stir like Leleuma did?” she asked, amazed.
The Lady smiled. “There is more to you than you know,” she said. “Was it not your song that got you here through the sleeping forest, even though the Spell is so terribly strong around this place? Come, now, listen to the music of the Lake and sing with it. Open your heart to what it says.”
Colleen gazed out over the shining waters and tried hard to listen. Gradually, her mind grew quiet, and it seemed as though some great peace filled her. There were no thoughts at all in her mind, only the peace. In that moment, it seemed that all was at peace around the Lake, although it was like an island in some great storm.
She sensed that all about the Lake the Spell of the Court Witch was at work, pressing its terrible weight upon the forest, causing the last vestiges of its strength to slip away into a fitful sleepiness, and a great weariness lay from horizon to horizon. But the Lake stood free of it, a refuge and a fortress untouched by that weight, although the Spell strove against the Lake like a raging sea against a lighthouse on a granite cliff.
Then it was as though she saw something more. It was only a glimpse, but just for a moment, she saw deeper than her eyes alone could see. Beyond the water, beyond the shoreline, beyond the trees, she saw… saw… But no, she could not describe it. No thought seemed fitting for it. It was something that she perceived not with her physical senses, but with another sense, that, for a moment, awoke within her.
It was not the scores of little people that she glimpsed who lay sleeping amid fitful dreams beneath root and trunk in the dreadful night of the Spell. Nor was it the hidden spirits that dwelt in many of these things that now transfixed her, although she saw these too – those creatures of another time and place that had come to dwell within these things and made them their homes so long, long ago. No, this was even deeper than them, for it encompassed those spirits as well. It was like a song, although it was not with her ears that she was now hearing it. The forest sang it as well, and its part was deep and sad, and had sunken to a whisper, as though it longed to be released from its deepening slumber.
Now, she saw her own place in that song – the part that she was to sing in it. If she could just stay within that part, and seek nothing beyond it, desire no more than her given portion, and yet let none of her responsibility within it to slip, all would be well. She could see how the Spell strove against the Song and sought to dominate and control it. It was like a noise that rose to drown out the sweetness of the music so that none could hear it and would grow weary under its constant clatter.
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Each thing in God’s creation has its place and purpose, each its own created essence, and particularly each of us humans, created in the image and likeness of God. Each has his or her portion in the Great Song of life.
When we live contrary to the Gospel, our actions are like a discord in the Song that all creation is intended to sing. Perhaps it is like sitting at 12000 feet under the great cathedral of the heavens, listening to the awesome silence, gazing into the depths of eternity, and suddenly pulling out an accordion, kazoo and tambourine and marching loudly about banging and clanging. The discord just doesn’t fit.
In The McGunnegal Chronicles, it is the Spell that causes the discord, bringing a sleep of nightmares that never ends, and causing the forest to groan under its weight. But the Spell is artificial, a thing cast upon the woods and its people, an aberration, not something natural to the Land of the Little People.
St. Maximos the Confessor said, “Evil is not to be imputed to the essence of created beings, but to their erroneous and mindless motivation.” Sin isn’t natural to us, and creation groans a little more every time we commit sin. We were meant to sing in harmony, not only with all creation, but to also contemplate the Divine Trinity, and sing with the infinitely greater richness of the uncreated song of God’s divine energies.
When we live our lives in accordance with the Great Song of the God, then we’re in tune with all that is good.